Hone Your Skills

How Speaking Less Can Improve Your Remote Communication

February 22, 2022
7 Min Read

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world and businesses hard, remote work has become a short-term and long-term option for many companies. In 2021, Upwork estimated that 26% of the American workforce would be working remotely.

The firm also estimates that 36.2 million Americans will be working entirely remotely by 2025.

But there’s the elephant in the room few want to address. How effectively will these teams be communicating? 

Communication Naturally Happens in Bursts

As is, managing communication flow in remote teams is very tricky. But research by the Harvard Business Review show that burstiness, information diversity, and psychological synchrony are vital to streamlining processes, fostering creativity, improving team performance, and reducing the stress of multitasking.

At the core of human communication is burstiness. Naturally, human communication will cycle between periods of high activity followed by periods of little to none. 

This tendency hallmarks successful remote teams. They will have bursts of rapid-fire communications followed by more extended periods of silence. Talking less improves both communication and performance.

During the silent periods, the team members form and develop their ideas. This deep work may generate the next steps in a project or the solution to a challenge the team faces.

These bursts, therefore, allow the team to focus its energy, achieve closure on specific questions, and develop ideas.

However, proper use of this burstiness needs a few changes to how remote communication occurs. 

How to Improve Your Remote Communication

Message-based communication such as email and texting are not the best options for promoting effective remote communication with less talk. Everyone should be aligned to communicate in one forum simultaneously, and everyone should be attentive to respond rapidly.

That means doing these few things.

Invest in the Right Technology

You need tools that allow your remote team to communicate seamlessly and efficiently. Such tools include online documents, instant messaging apps, shared cloud storage, and video chat apps. 

You need to test these tools out before committing to using them. Then, you need to decide which software will be used for what tasks. That way, everyone will be working together towards the same goals.

For instance, you might decide to use Slack for instant messaging and Zoom for video calls. Every team member would thus be available on those platforms throughout the day to catch any flying information.

Ensure you also have a stable internet connection. If you are running a home office, make sure the Wi-Fi router is close to the office, or you have an extender installed to increase the range. 

Alternatively, you can get a wired ethernet cord and attach it physically to the desktop or laptop for a better internet connection.

Prioritize Video Calls

Meeting in person is rarely an option for most remote teams. Therefore, hosting a meeting where you can see everyone’s face is a great thing. Use services such as Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype to open up communication lines.

Such communication lines keep remote teams engaged and foster social interactions.

With video calls, you can also ensure that every team member is paying attention. That way, you won’t have to relay redundant information later. Moreover, the meeting can proceed quicker, which improves the team performance.

Have Clear Expectations and Availability

If you want to spend less time talking and pass critical information in bursts, then everyone needs to have their deliverables and availability on check. 

Allow everyone to develop their norms and schedules. However, set expectations on what work is due each week and how it should be delivered. Working at home has more distractions compared to the average workplace. 

You even have children taking part in remote learning, which you must add to your schedule.

That means you have to be reasonable with your deadlines and expectations. Consider the challenges most members might find at home. This will make communication clearer when it comes to priorities and tasks.

Also, come up with regular availability or “office hours.” This can be a standard time, such as 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Despite the team not being in the same space physically, everyone can be digitally signed in the same place, allowing for open communication channels and more opportunities to work efficiently.

The team members should also have the flexibility to report on their progress asynchronously within a given time. That way, no one’s workload gets too heavy.

Focus on Less

The diversity of the information you relay affects how effective the communication is. Moreover, it affects how the team performs.

Improving the diversity of information means focusing on less to relay more. Each piece of communication should put focus on a small set of topics. These small chunks of information allow the mind to focus more. They also declutter communication.

Imagine you’re trying to manage multiple emails from your teammate that cover a wide range of topics. In this case, you can be easily lost searching for information instead of focusing on the most crucial topic.

By having focused messages, you won’t have to deal with this headache.

Build a Common Language

Every workplace is unique. Moreover, each has its own language. Take this culture online and craft a new language that your team can use to communicate.

For instance, Zapier uses the term “tree time” to represent uninterrupted work time. Thus, if a colleague mentions that they will work on the given task but need some ‘tree time”, the other one leaves them uninterrupted.

These languages are casual, simple, and useful.

Other commonly used terms include rocks, pebbles, and sands. A business may recommend putting the “rocks” first before adding the “pebbles,” then the sand. This means that high-priority issues must be dealt with before moving on to the lower priority ones.

Make Remote Communication More Effective

Speaking less and working more will not just improve your remote communication. Some of these principles can be applied to make physical workspaces more effective. 

You have to make sure that you’re developing the burstiness of your team, establishing periods of deep work without interruptions, fostering information diversity, and making use of audio and video technologies to meet the team’s communication needs.

Say it like you mean it.

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